The Good and the Bad of Having A Roommate Who’s Also Your Landlord

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Many people today who own homes or condos are renting out rooms in their homes to friends or acquaintances so that they can earn a little extra money. Many times, this means that as a renter, you can live in a nice place for less money than it would cost if you found a place on your own. There are other benefits too in living with a friend who also happens to be your landlord, but beware — there are some negatives that go along with that situation as well.

The negatives could be things like discovering that your friend-landlord is really picky about caring for their furniture, TVs, couches, etc. because they paid a lot of money for them. If you do not take adequate care of them or damage them, that could cause a stressful and sticky situation. They may also have some rules you may not like, like restrictions on having other friends over, keeping the common areas free of clutter, or noise-related issues. And when you're dealing with a friend rather than "just a landlord," stress can abound in situations that wouldn’t normally concern a renter. In addition, if there are costly repairs, it will fall upon the landlord as always, but when the landlord is also your roommate and friend, that could make them resentful because it may be on their dime to fix. And finally, if the two of you do not end up getting along as well as co-tenants as you did when you were just pals, you will be the one who has to move out!

But make no mistake, there are lots of potential advantages to living with a landlord-friend, too. You may receive a lower rent than you might normally pay if you were renting an apartment alone or with a co-tenant who doesn't essentially control the rent rate. In addition, the property may be more of a home than a rental unit because your friend-landlord might already have TVs, furniture, kitchen wares, patio tables, BBQs, and much more available so that you can enjoy it all too at no extra cost. Plus, the utilities can be split and sometimes the owner will pay a higher portion of the bills and/or may cover the costs of gardening or other utilities. Other positives are that owners will usually take better care of the property and do more maintenance, so it should stay in better shape and be a nicer place to live than if you were to rent a place that's turned over every year.

Those are all significant benefits and as long as you are a good tenant, your friend probably won’t raise your rent because they'll be happy to have a good, compatible person to help pay the mortgage and take care of their house. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some things you can do to make sure your living situation will work out for the best. At the start of your process, as always, make sure to give yourself adequate time to search for the right place. You should start looking at leasta couple of months before you plan to move. This way, you are not rushed to make a quick living situation choice that is not optimal for you, whether it involves living with your friend or not. Once you start talking to potential roommate owners, you should take your time to carefully interview them to make sure their lifestyle works for you. The means learning about their home and work schedule, their expectations about cleanliness, noise, clutter, company, and other items that are important to you. You want to make sure the two of you are a good fit as co-tenants and not just as friends, and that includes asking questions and answering their questions so you can decide if living in their house makes sense.

Finally, as a practical note, you should always do a written lease with your landlord even if your landlord happens to be a good friend. If you are not sure about how long you'll be living there, you can try to negotiate a lease where you only need to give 30 days of notice before moving out. A written lease protects both you and the landlord from misunderstandings related to the rent, security deposit, timeframe, splitting utilities, use of the garage/storage/parking, etc. and is generally just a good idea.

Having a roommate who owns the house can have big benefits if you are responsible and respectful with their property. In addition, you can secure a fair rent for a great place and probably stay a long time if all works out. Just make sure to adequately interview and think through who you will be living with before you move in to better the chances that it will work out for everyone.